Interview with Chen (Guitar), Zhang (Bass), and Yang (Vocals)
From the golden seas of China comes an act that must simply be heard to be believed. Combining elements of black metal symphonies that one might expect from DIMMU BORGIR and BAL-SAGOTH with the atmospheric and folk nature of OPETH and the oddities that one might expect from Japanese mad scientists, SIGH; SCREAMING SAVIOR manage to deliver with each and every track on their second opus, Infinity. The album has been picked up by the American label Metal Hell Records where it has been remixed, remastered and amended with two new tracks and new cover art. I shared a few words with them about this majestic album’s sound, the band’s philosophy and the current state of metal in China.
The new album Infinity has been remixed and remastered by Metal Hell Records. What can we expect with the new version of the album and what are the amended tracks?
Chen: The remixed version will sound better than the Mort version, especially the guitar and drum parts. The two amended bonus tracks are variations of two songs on the album. Though we actually made them just for fun, they truly show our thoughts of composition for these songs. So we put them on the album as bonus tracks.
Why the decision to remix and re-master the album? I thought the disc sounded great to begin with. Why the decision to leave Mort Productions?
First of all, we did not and will not leave Mort Productions. We just wanted to find another partner in different market. I mean, we’ve worked together with Mort since years and they are the best metal label you can find in China. But on the other side, it will be great to have a local partner to promote us in NAFTA. This remixed and remastered version is only for the NAFTA market this time, since we want to show our honor to the place where modern metal originated from.
How did all of this come about? The original album I mean. What was it like recording Infinity for the first time and what occurred with remixing and mastering of the disc? How long did all of this take?
Chen: We wrote the 10 songs on Infinity for about two years, then recorded and mixed them for about one year after. Most songs come from some of our thoughts about philosophy and science and some feelings that we’ve had while on tour. It’s a really enjoyable process when we do these and we feel that we get a lot of experience from them. The remix and re-master work was much faster. It only took us about two months of work.
Where do you draw lyrical inspiration from? It all sounds very cosmic, very mythological.
Yang: During the composition of our first album Eclipse of the Dark Luna, we depicted the legendary epic with our lyrics and tried to reveal that nothing lasts forever. Your power, your strength and your wealth will finally fade just like the eclipse. In Infinity, the lyrical inspiration derived from our respect for the spirits of the ancient Chinese saints. Also we tried to harmonize mysterious Chinese wisdom with the modern culture of the west, aiming to find a balance in between.
Chen: I am a master mathematician and have always been interested in science and the cosmos, so this might be the source of cosmic feeling in our music.
What kind of equipment were you using when you first recorded the album, and what did you first use to mix it? Any programs in particular? It’s a fantastic job.
Chen: We record with a line 6 tone port UX 1 soundcard and mix with Cubase. Nothing special and I think it would sound much better if we were able to record and mix it in a real studio, but we can’t afford that.
Zhang: Actually, we are planning a big gear upgrade for the next album.
What would you cite as influences? What musicians/bands made you first want to take up your instruments? What composers have influenced your work?
Chen: I started learning how to play an instrument with my mother from childhood, but it was around the age of sixteen that I first heard the symphony of Beethoven. From that point on, I started to realize that I wanted to create my own music. So even today, you might be able to find some influences of classical symphonies in our music. After that, I started listening to metal and regard Emperor as my personal favorite. They have the biggest influence in our music.
Zhang: I started to play guitar in the university. It was not enough for me to just listen to music; I knew that I wanted to play it on my own. I listen to a lot of different styles of music and find the most attractive part of the music on the inside.
What is it like playing metal in China? I’ve heard that they’re very strict over there. Have you ever gotten into any serious issues over there with the law or even the government?
Chen: In China, only a few people like metal music. So here metal is too weak to be restricted by the government. And since it’s impossible to make money to live by playing metal music here, we needn’t pander to people around.
Zhang: So far we haven’t gotten into any problems. As long as you stay away from politics, you should be fine. Unfortunately, we have not been able to get so much support that we can work 100% on our band project. But things are getting better now, as more and more people become aware that there is more than just pop music in the world.
What do you guys do when you’re not making music? What do you like to read or watch? Do you have any certain video/computer games that you like?
Chen: I’m an algorithm engineer of electronic musical instruments. I like to watch many different types of movies, but as far as video games are concerned; the Castlevania series are my favorite.
Zhang: I work in a purchasing department for an automotive components manufacturer. I like to read novels about Chinese swordsmen and mysteries as well as books about traditional religion. I am also a big fan of SF movies. Starcraft, Mass Effect, Dirt and Winning Eleven are some of my favorite games.
It sounds like a live orchestra was utilized in the making of this album. Can you tell me how you did this?
Chen: We recorded many tracks on the keyboard such as violin, viola, cello, trumpet, French horn, flute, timpani, harp, choirs and so on. We wanted to make it sound like a real orchestra when we utilized the keyboard parts. That took us quite a long time, but it was worth it.
What are some bands that you’re currently into?
Chen: No. I used to play in some other metal bands such as Terminal Lost. But now I’m only interested in Screaming Savior.
Zhang: I’m only interested in Screaming Savior and have no time for others.
Do you have any philosophies or messages that you wish to share with us? What do you believe in?
Chen: I believe that order and evolution is the sense of being. That’s it.
Zhang: I believe that science will not be able to explain everything in our world.
Yang: Be calm and be respectful. Try to sense the world as a bystander. Believe in Karma.
Who is the Screaming Savior? What does it mean and who came up with it? How does this name represent the band?
Yang: Just imagine if the Savior could scream about how dirty the world is.
Have you done any tours? Of those tours, what would be the most memorable? Do you have any interesting travel stories that you can tell us?
Zhang: We had our last tour for the new album in 2012 and it was a great memory that I will treasure for the rest of my life. We went to seven cities and traveled more than four-thousand miles. The people there were great. Regarding the funny story, I remember that once we (6 people) had 20 donkey burgs as breakfast in Beijing!
Do you think it would be possible to play the states one day? I’m sure that there are people who’d love to see you over here.
Chen: Of course! If someone can afford the plane tickets for us to go.
Zhang: It is one of my dreams to play in the US, but we should make sure that our stuff is welcome there first.
Thanks for the wonderful interview and I hope to hear more great music from you soon!